Mr McEACHAN (Redlands—LNP) (3.40 pm): I rise to make a contribution to the debate on the Education and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2016. From the outset, I put on the record my strong advocacy for public schools and private schools throughout Queensland, particularly in my electorate of Redlands.
I attended a number of state schools—Long Street Primary School, Forestdale Primary School, Central State School and Albert State School and Maryborough State High School. I had the benefit of being taught by some wonderfully dedicated teachers. One of the first that comes to mind is Mrs Morgan. She was a wonderful mentor for me and she saw me through my weekly detentions where I gained valuable skills. That was my prep. Those detentions were nearly every week for the entire year. I think they were beneficial in terms of me improving my skills.
An opposition member: What did you do?
Mr McEACHAN: I liked to ask a lot of questions. Some of those questions were unwarranted. I did also like to entertain the class and sometimes my entertainment was not desired. I spent a fair bit of time in detention. She was wonderful and helped me through what was a difficult transitional period for me. It was about grade 4 or 5.
Mr Krause: Nothing has changed.
Mr McEACHAN: Nothing much has changed, no. I had subsequent teachers who were terrific. One other that stands out was my history teacher at Maryborough State High School. He said, ‘If you learn one thing from me, it is this’—I think it is something that those in the Labor Party would do well to learn—‘There ain’t no free lunch.’ That is advice that our friendly socialists on the other side of the chamber should take on board.
My daughter attended prep in the Redlands. She has now moved on to high school. I am a strong supporter of state education. There are some things that I have concerns about, despite the admirable intentions of the bill. I will use the Redlands experience to highlight what might be some problems in the rest of the state.
In the southern Redlands, which is one of the fastest growing areas in Queensland, we have Redland Bay State School, Mount Cotton State School and Carbrook State School. They are fabulous schools with great teachers and principals, wonderful P&Cs and wonderful kids. All those schools are on enrolment management plans. If we are to increase the take-up of prep I would like to know from the education minister how we are going to take on those extra kids in that area. Does it mean we will have more classroom space? Will we have more teachers? Are we looking at new facilities in that part of Redlands?
The other side of the coin are the issues that we experience on the southern Moreton Bay islands. Macleay Island State School and Russell Island State School have an underrepresentation of kids starting grade 1 who have done prep. We have significant issues that need to be addressed now before we embark on further legislation and further problems arise from that.
I would urge the education minister to look closely at that. As the education minister knows, I have an outstanding invitation for her to come and meet the teachers and P&Cs in the Redlands and look at some of the issues we have. One of those issues is that teacher aides who support our wonderful teachers and help our kids on the islands do not get a travel subsidy. Our teachers get a travel subsidy to get to the islands but our teacher aides, who are coming from the mainland, do not get a travel subsidy. They have out-of-pocket expenses in the order of 41⁄2 thousand dollars a year so they can get to work and be part of our education system. It is my firm view that that treats them as second-class employees.
I believe that teacher aides are equally important and are absolutely integral to the fabric of our education system. I would urge the education minister to have a look at that situation and help the teacher aides get to these schools. We have problems on the southern Moreton Bay islands in terms of equity of education. I would urge the education minister to look at that. One of the other things we need is to have better paediatric support on the islands. The current attendance levels across the state are 97 per cent. That does not reflect what is happening in the Redlands.
Labor has a very poor track record of looking after schools. When we came to government in 2012 there was a $300 million black hole in the school maintenance program. We had schools in my electorate where paint was peeling off the walls, there were holes in the roofs and there were problems with maintenance. It was the former education minister who took that problem on and came up with the maintenance program that got those schools up to scratch so that the current government could carry on and fix up all the issues.
The Palaszczuk Labor government likes to duplicate, complicate, pontificate but not create solutions. I urge those opposite to fix the problems that we have right now rather than create more problems for the future.